The Communal Riot In Leicester, And The Lessons We Must Draw

by WebDesk
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Faizal Aziz
Today, a friend sent me a news link carrying information about the communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims at Leicester in England. The news report said that the clashes were fuelled by online hate propaganda sent to Hindu and Muslim communities in Leicester from India.
The lies and hatred generated by social media users and bots in India were bombarded into the WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter accounts of users in Leicester. The hate campaign moved across continents. The hate content led to disastrous consequences at the ground level. It led to Hindus and Muslims fighting each other on the streets of central England.
According to a BBC report, tensions involving mainly young men from sections of both communities culminated in large-scale disorder on September 17. The incident led to nearly 50 arrests, 158 crimes being recorded and nine people being charged.
Local Communities Left In Shock
Hindu and Muslim communities had been living in peace and harmony in Leicester for decades. There had been undercurrents of tension over some issues. But they had never spilled into street violence of the kind that happened on September 17. After the riot, both communities were left in shock.
The riot also led to bewilderment in the local police force.
Leicester is one of the most populous cities in England. In the 1951 census, just 624 people with South Asian heritage were recorded as living in Leicester. Now, 70 years on, the city has one of the highest proportions of British South Asians, revealed BBC.
The report noted that for decades, Leicester had a reputation as a model for cohesion. But the recent unprecedented unrest between groups of Hindu and Muslim men raised difficult questions for a place that prided itself on its multiculturalism.
Big Role Of Social Media In Fanning Flames
After the riot, Leicestershire Police Chief Mr. Rob Nixon told the BBC that social media had played a “huge role” in fanning the flames. “There are significant things on social media that are false,” he said. The police chief said that fake footage of assaults on people and attacks on religious establishments were deliberately and systematically circulated to inflame the local communities.
Lessons For Us 
The friend who sent me the news link made a comment that left me pondering. He texted: “This needs to be seen as a trend. We are building up to information warfare for 2023. International teams are in place.”
His comment filled me with concern and dread. Our neighboring country shall be delighted to see diverse communities in India fighting each other. But will it help us as a nation? Will it help our society, our children, and our grandchildren?
Hence the first lesson is what the Leicestershire Police Chief Mr. Rob Nixon said regarding the misuse of social media for fanning the riots.
Our neighboring country shall be delighted to see diverse communities in India fighting each other. But will it help us as a nation? Will it help our society, our children, and our grandchildren?
“My plea is that please, if people are seeing information on social media, if they can’t validate it, please don’t circulate it,” said Mr. Nixon. “Because what we know people are doing is they are receiving fake news via social media and then they are forwarding it on, so it’s amplifying the problem, and it’s raising fear.”
The police chief of Leicester also warned against “broad, sweeping comments” about the unrest. He told BBC that the recent disorder in Leicester did not only involve Hindus and Muslims.
“Everybody likes to simplify the message and make broad, sweeping comments that ‘this is the Hindus versus the Muslims, and the Muslims against the Hindus’,” Mr. Nixon told the BBC.
“Actually what we know is that this isn’t representative of all the Hindus, it isn’t representative of all the Muslims. In fact, it’s a small collection of individuals who are connected with [those faiths], but not exclusively… because [some] people that have come to our attention have been linked with the Christian faith. So I’m trying to encourage people to move away from the idea that this is solely about the clash of two religions and faiths,” said the police chief.
Two Vital Points Here
There are two important points that must be noted here. One, those goonda elements of other communities also got involved in the fight on the street in Leicester. Riots often go out of control because all shades of hooligans and thugs get involved with it, making a bad situation worse.
The second major point made by the Leicester police chief was that we must never circulate any content on social media whose authenticity is doubtful.
The same point has been made by India’s police forces for years. Police officers and the local administration in different parts of India have been requesting for years – do not to share content if you cannot guarantee that it is the truth.
We need to follow this with equal responsibility, whether we are Muslims or Hindus. We must share only that information among our social media groups which we can cent percent guarantee to be the truth.
Why We Must Learn In Time
“Fake information and misinformation – deliberately intended to mislead – are also being spread and exploited on social media,” Leicestershire Police Chief Mr. Rob Nixon said about the riots. This is the danger that we all need to be wary of. Each one of us bears the responsibility to give our children and grandchildren a happy and secure future. Social media is a potent force. We must all be social media users with a sense of deep responsibility.
False news circulated on social media leads to violence on the ground. Men influenced by fake news become part of a mob. Mob disorder commonly leads to assaults and bloodshed. Communities suffer injuries that bleed for a long. Is this the future that we want for our children?
Collective Work For Peace, Harmony
It pains me that across diverse communities, people want to send their children to the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Australia, etc so that ‘they can build a happy and prosperous life for themselves.
Why are we looking towards foreign nations as places of peace and prosperity? We must collectively build our own nation in such a way that our children can build rewarding careers here and they can prosper here. There should be no need for us to send our children to faraway shores so that they can have a prosperous, peaceful, and abundant life. Each one of us must contribute towards making our own nation a happy place where people of all communities live amidst peace and harmony. Amen.

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